Saturday, July 04, 2015

the fauxtographer

I was just thumbing through my latest copy of Click Magazine, which came in the mail yesterday, along with a reminder that my subscription was about to run out. I almost let it lapse... but ended up renewing after all. I feel like I'm not getting as much out of the magazine as I used to, but I still like getting something delivered to my doorstep filled with beautiful photographs. Sometimes they spark inspiration or help me learn something new. Other times they serve as reminder of how little I use my camera nowadays, how in some ways I feel like a fraud to my beloved hobby.

Several months ago I posted something on facebook about how I want to do something meaningful with my photography one day. Not sure what and not sure when, but just... something, sometime.

I got a bit of scolding from my mom, who was outraged at the insinuation that my photography has not been meaningful all this time... And she is totally right, it has been incredibly meaningful and special for me to be able to so aptly and beautifully capture my boys growing up, and it's provided me with a creative outlet and fun hobby. And I like to think that others get something out of the photos I share, as well.

But I also feel a pull to do something more, to go beyond capturing our own lives and do something that gives back to others (beyond immediate family members enjoying the pictures of my boys). I've thought at times about trying to make this photography hobby into a career, but have hesitated because a) I still feel like I have so much more to learn before I could promise consistent results and feel right asking people pay me for it, and b) I don't want to turn something that is fun into something that feels like an obligation. It's also just intimidating-- it's one thing to have fun taking cute pictures of my kids (and it being no big deal if none of them turn out well). It's quite another to have someone depending on me to do a good job.

But still...sometimes ideas go turning in the back of my head. I've wondered about pairing up with nonprofits to volunteer photography services. Or somehow offering portraits for low-income families (are portraits of your kids and families over the years a frivolous luxury, or something everyone ought to have even if they can't afford to pay hundreds of dollars per session?). Or birth photography. Or teaching photography basics. Or... I dunno.

And yet, I hardly ever seem to pick up my big camera anymore. It sits for weeks or sometimes even a month or two at a time just collecting dust. When I do use it, more weeks pass before I get around to sorting, tagging, editing, and uploading the photos. I still get a thrill from producing and sharing a beautiful photo, but many of the steps between pressing that shutter button and uploading the finished photo kinda feel like a chore (hence my attraction to film photography, and aversion to shooting in RAW). Soon after getting my first dslr, and for many years after, I averaged about 1,000 "keeper" photos every month. Most of the past year or so, I have maybe 200 photos from each month, mostly from my phone. It's a significant drop-off.

I can think of many reasons/excuses for this slowdown. For one thing, parenting has in many ways become much easier or at least less overwhelming than many of our early days of no sleep and round-the-clock breastfeeding, but the kind of parenting I have chosen to do, especially with homeschooling, requires that much of my energy-- mental and physical-- be devoted to my boys. Supporting Zach in his studies and career has also become more intense since he switched from his engineering track to business and consulting (it's almost strange looking back and remembering a time when he didn't leave for work till close to 9am, and was home in time to cook dinner most nights). All of this leaves me with very little time and energy for creative endeavors.

(there are also other roadblocks that I can identify, like that our current house doesn't have as good a quality of light as many of our previous homes; the rhythm of our days being different and the boys being older and more conscious of the camera mean needing to move to a different style of shooting altogether; my trying to be more present in the moment, at the cost sometimes of not capturing the moment in a photograph; all things of which I can be mindful)

To be frank, I know I'm good. I have a good eye, and my technique isn't half bad. I feel like the things that stand in my way as a photographer are things that could be within my grasp-- it is mostly a question of taking the time to slow down, to think through each shot, to sit down and learn proper editing skills and techniques for fixing things like tricky white balance or skin tones. Ah, but there's the rub-- taking the time.

But if I were a TRUE photographer, I would MAKE the time, right? I would find a way, somehow, somewhere. Right?

(this is where that "feeling like a fraud" thing comes in)

This struggle of the creative parent not actually being able to create because they are too busy being a parent is certainly not unique or new, it's been written about eleventybillion times before I'm sure (hell even I have bitched written about it many times before). Like most other people who wrestle with this same stuff, I have complicated feelings about it. Much of the time I feel ok with just letting go, realizing that this phase in my life is temporary, and that I (hopefully) have many years ahead of me when I can focus more on myself and things like writing and photography. I also know that life is short, that we never know how much time we really have, that I don't want to look back one day with longing or wishing for things I never took the time to do. And also too, I mean, I love being so present with my children right now, in their present ages and stages. It is a unique and precious opportunity. I am not wishing for a different life, as contradictory as that may sound.

What does all that mean? I don't know. I want things that I can't have in part because of decisions I have made that I continue to stand behind, and I feel both satisfied and frustrated by it all. That I can sorta kinda see the forrest despite the large trees in the way. That I am trying not to beat myself up too hard for not managing to squeeze more into the 24 hours of each day.

And also, that I stayed up till midnight to write this post, and I am glad that I got it all out, and I will pay for it in the morning, and that one sentence more or less sums up this massively long post in a nutshell.

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